A recently uncovered top-secret memo of the Soviet secret police reported on the “Schneerson anti-Soviet organization” which had established centers in New York and France. The arrest photo of R’ Mendel Futerfas was also discovered.
Excerpt from an article by Dovid Margolin – Chabad.org
On June 6, 1950, Maj. Gen. Mikhail Popereka, a deputy minister of the Ukrainian branch of the MGB Soviet secret police—the precursor to the KGB—drafted an 11-page memo on the status of the ongoing investigation into the case of the “Chassidim” and sent it to Viktor Abakumov, minister of state security (MGB) of the Soviet Union.
Marked with a hand-written “Top Secret,” the report synopsized information gathered by the MGB over the course of its investigation into “the Schneerson anti-Soviet organization” via foreign agents, informants and interrogations. An anti-Soviet center headed by the “tzaddik Schneerson” – standard shorthand for the Frierdiker Rebbe in Soviet documents—had been set up in New York by American intelligence under the guise of a yeshivah, a European branch established in France, and all of it connected to an extensive anti-Soviet network within the Soviet Union. This, at least, is how the Soviet Union’s intelligence apparatus saw it, all the way to the top.
At the time that he received this memo, Viktor Abakumov was one of the most powerful men in the Soviet Union. A member of a younger generation of Communist Party cadres wholly devoted to Stalin, he joined the secret police at age 24 in 1932 and rose through the ranks to become a top deputy to the notorious Lavrentiy Beria, head of the secret police and a close confidant of Stalin. In 1943, Abakumov was appointed the head of the newly formed SMERSH (a Russian acronym for “Death to Spies”), Stalin’s particularly brutal, war-time military counter-intelligence organization, and began reporting directly to Stalin. At no point was Abakumov above personally torturing his captives. After the war, in 1946, SMERSH was merged into the secret police and Abakumov, by then one of Stalin’s favorites, was promoted to head of the MGB. “For the next five years, Abakumov was in control of the life of almost every Soviet citizen and his MGB could arrest any citizen it chose—without waiting for an order from Stalin,” Vadim J. Birstein writes in his comprehensive SMERSH: Stalin’s Secret Weapon. “Through the MGB branches in occupied countries, Abakumov also controlled half of Europe.”
In other words, the danger posed by the “Chassidim,” a term used interchangeably with “Schneersonite” in Soviet secret police documents, to the state security of the Soviet Union and perhaps the fate of Lenin’s revolution itself, was of concern to literally the highest echelons of Soviet power.
The report to Abakumov, presented below in its original form and for the first time in English, focuses on the aftermath of what is today known as the Great Escape, a sophisticated and dangerous operation conceived and executed by Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidim to illegally escape the Soviet Union after World War II. With the Sixth Rebbe’s blessings, beginning in the spring of 1946 and concluding on New Year’s Day 1947, approximately 1,200 Lubavitcher Chassidim procured false or doctored Polish citizenship papers and fled the Soviet Union via the Ukrainian border city of Lvov (today Lviv).2 The last successful crossing took place on Jan. 1, 1947 (9 Tevet, 5707), after which, as mentioned in the document and in more detail in histories of the Great Escape, the remaining organizers of the operation were hunted down and arrested.
But the main focus of this MGB memo is a second, far less known Lubavitcher attempt to flee the Soviet Union en masse through Romania. The plan was tested in December of 1948, when four Chassidim—Moshe Chaim Dubrowski, Meir Junik, Yaakov Lepkivker and Moshe Greenberg—left the city of Chernovtsy, Soviet Ukraine, less than 40 kilometers away from the border, and smuggled themselves into Romania.
This time, the results were tragic.
Note: We’ve tried to keep the translation of the MGB document as close to the original as possible. All handwritten notations in the document are rendered below in italics, with minor explanations included in brackets and larger ones in the footnotes. Biographical information for every known individual mentioned is included in the footnotes. A PDF of the original file, which comes from the Regional State Administration of the SBU, Kyiv, f.1, d.258, and has been made public by the Nadav Foundation, is appended at the bottom of this page.
June 6, 1950
To the Minister of State Security [MGB] of the USSR
Comrade Abakumov, V.S.,
[Copy to] the Head of the 2nd Main Directorate of the MGB of the USSR, Major General Comrade Pitovranov, E.P.
In 1949, information was received from foreign agents of the Ministry of State Security [MGB] of the Ukrainian SSR [Soviet Socialist Republic] that in the city of New York /USA/, under the cover of a school for the training of rabbis, an anti-Soviet center was created by American intelligence, which is headed by the famous Jewish tzaddik SCHNEERSON, who was expelled from the USSR in 1928.
A European branch of this center was established in the city of Paris /France/ led by an American intelligence officer, GRIFFEL, Yakob [Yaakov], who is deputy chairman of the Zionist organization “Central Orthodox Committee.” /“KOK”/.
According to the same information, the foreign Schneerson organization established contact with the anti-Soviet underground in the cities of Moscow and Chernovtsy and in December of 1948 organized an illegal escape from the USSR to Romania of four Chassidim /a religious sect/ Schneerson’s followers, who were detained as illegals by Romanian authorities and returned to the Soviet side.
In reviewing this data, it was established that on December 9, 1948, the Romanian authorities did in fact hand over to the 31st detachment of troops of the Transcarpathian Border District the following defectors from the USSR, who were detained in the city of Radeutsy [Romania]: DUBROWSKI, Moshe-Chaim Evseevich – born in 1881; JUNIK-MARGULIS, Meir Tulovich – born in 1930; LEPKIVKER, Yakov Borisovich – born in 1930; and GREENBERG, Moses [Moshe] Naftulovich – born in 1930.
During the investigation, these persons hid their membership in the illegal Schneerson organization and in March 1949 they were convicted as defectors by the Military Tribunal of the troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Carpathian Military District.
In order to verify the information received from the foreign agents, the convicts – DUBROWSKI, JUNIK, LEPKIVKER and GREENBERG were brought to the MGB of the Ukrainian SSR in the city of Kiev and underwent enhanced interrogation.
In the course of additional investigation by the MGB of the Ukrainian SSR, the enemy work of the Schneerson anti-Soviet organization illegally existing on the territory of the USSR, its connection with the Schneerson center in the USA and the branch in France, was partially revealed, and newly identified members of this underground were arrested.
Arrested in the case:
VISHEDSKY, also known as VITEBSKY Moses [Moshe] Pinchasovich – born in 1912 in Vitebsk, Jew, citizen of the USSR, without [political] party, prior to his arrest resident in Chernovtsy, worked as a foreman in a knitting factory.
KOZLINER, Chaim Zalman Boruchovich – born in 1894 in Disna /Poland/, Jew, citizen of the USSR, without [political] party, no concrete occupation, resident of Chernovtsy.
FLOM, Chaim Yechielovich – born in 1882 in the village of Secureni, Chernovtsy region; Jew; citizen of the USSR; with medium religious education; rabbi; resident in the city of Chernovtsy.
Additionally, in April of this year in the city of Tashkent, at the orientation of the Ministry of State Security of the Ukrainian SSR, the Ministry of State Security of the Uzbek SSR discovered a Chassid-Schneersonite who had been evading arrest in the city of Chernovtsy:
SOSSONKO, also known as BATUMSKI Asher Shmerkovich – born in 1889 in the city of Dnepropetrovsk, Jew, citizen of the USSR, without party, without concrete occupation or permanent place of residence.
Materials regarding SOSSONKO-BATUMSKI have been sent to the Ministry of State Security of the Uzbek SSR for the purpose of his arrest and transfer to the MGB of the Ukrainian SSR – in the city of Kiev.
As established in the case, after Schneerson was expelled from the USSR, his followers, the Chassidim, continued to maintain illegal contact with him and did not cease their anti-Soviet activities.
During the period of the Great Patriotic War, the main mass of Chassidim evacuated to Central Asia, where, through Iran, they renewed their contact with SCHNEERSON in the USA.
According to SCHNEERSON’s directives, the Chassidim intensified their anti-Soviet activities and created illegal schools in the cities of Samarkand and Tashkent, in which Jewish youth who fell under their influence studied in a religious and nationalist spirit.
Those studying in the Schneersonite schools were provided with food, board and work in handicraft artels headed by Chassidim.
The arrested in the case, JUNIK-MARGULIS and GREENBERG, were students in these schools.
At the end of the war a directive was received from SCHNEERSON in the USA, through Chassidim associated with him – LEVITIN Samuel [Shmuel] – the son of the former rabbi of Kutaisi, who fled abroad to SCHNEERSON, and LEVITIN Samuel’s brother-in-law – BOBRUISKY, Eli [Gorodetsky, Binyamin], ordering the Chassidim of the USSR to flee abroad, for which it was recommended to utilize the Moscow-Lublin agreement on the repatriation of former Polish citizens from the USSR to Poland in force at that time.
In the furtherance of this goal, the Chassidim – DUBROWSKI, Moshe; MOCHKIN, Leib / who has escaped over the border; FUTERFAS / arrested in 1947 by the MGB of Lvov as a defector; and others, in connection with the former chairman of the Jewish religious community [of Lvov] SEREBRYANI /convicted, did not testify/ organized an illegal crossing point in Lvov through which were ferried into Poland more than 100 Chassidim and Jewish nationalists, including those with connections to SCHNEERSON—LEVITIN, Shmuel and BOBRUISKY, Eli.
In their anti-Soviet work DUBROWSKI, MOCHKIN and FUTERFAS were connected with the Moscow-based representatives of the leadership of the Chassidic organization in Moscow- DUBIN, Mordechai; KAGAN, Yeina; GURARI, Mottel; and LEVERTOV, Berel / who were at various times arrested and convicted by the MGB of the USSR/, [and] at whose direct instructions [Dubrowski, Mochkin and Futerfas] carried out their work.
During the period of the Great Patriotic War DUBIN, Mordechai lived in the city of Kuibyshev, [Russia], where he maintained suspected espionage connections with representatives of the Polish, English and American embassies.
As has been established, SOSSONKO-BATUMSKI and DUBROWSKI were connected with the Chassidim KANTROVICH, ZHIVOTOVSKY, SHILENSKY, MINTZ and others in the city of Lvov, as handled by the agent in the case of the “CHASSIDIM,” influencing them and slanting them towards the activation of anti-Soviet activities.
According to intelligence data, these persons organized gatherings in the apartment of SHILENSKY and other Chassidim, engaged in illegal crossings of Jews over the border, and also organized an illegal Schneerson school, the funds for which were received through the Jewish religious community.
According to the same information the Chassid – SHILENSKY, Boris Nachmanovich – born in 1896, doctor by profession, received higher education in Germany, fluent in English, French and German, lived in Moscow until the beginning of the war where he worked as a translator in the “Intourist” hotel, was acquainted with the former U.S. ambassador to the USSR HARRIMAN, with whom he allegedly met in person in the synagogue.
SHILENSKY currently resides in the city of Vilnius, and the MGB of the Lithuanian SSR is preparing to arrest him.
In addition, the MGB of the Ukrainian SSR has intelligence information that Lvov resident MINTZ /no other information/ met with the American spy WAIFE-GOLDBERG, [Benjamin/Ben Zion], who visited Lvov in 1946 under the guise of journalism, and told MINTZ that in the USA lives the famous rabbi of LUBAVITCH/SCHNEERSON – born in the village of Lyubavichi/ who gave the orders for the relocation of Chassidim from the USSR to the other side of the border.
According to information provided by the source “YUREVOI” and the testimony of the arrested FEFER, Isaac [Itzik], who is in the custody of the MGB of the USSR, in 1946 MINTZ, at the direction of WAIFE-GOLDBERG, traveled to the Drogobych region to search for the daughter of the former rabbi of Lvov FEINER-GUTKO, who lives in the USA, in order to transfer her abroad.
It has been established that the thirteen-year-old daughter of FEINER-GUTKO was really brought up by citizen PETRIKEVICH, Darya Nikolaevna, who lives in the Truskovets settlement, Drogobych region, and was taken from there in 1946 by an unknown foreigner.
Whether this MINTZ is the same person as the one handled by the agent in the “CHASSID” case has not yet been established. There are several individuals in Lvov with the family name MINTZ, and it is still under investigation.
Pursuant to the undercover “CHASSIDS” case of the Ukrainian MGB of the Lvov region, 12 people are currently being investigated.
Investigative measures by our agents also established that after the arrest in 1947 in the city of Lvov of a number of participants in the illegal crossings [including] / FUTERFAS, SEREBRYANI, [and] KOZLINER / the Chassid DUBROWSKI hid in Minsk, where he tried to resume the illegal crossing of SCHNEERSON’s followers, but was allegedly unsuccessful, while SOSSONKO-BATUMSKI fled to Chernovtsi, where he established an illegal connection with Zionists living in Bucharest.
As has been established, the crossing of the state border by the convicted JUNIK, LEPKIVKER and GREENBERG in December of 1948 was organized by the French branch of the Schneersonite center through the chairman of the Bucharest Zionist organization “AGUDAT” – PORTUGAL, SUZI [Zusia]; emissary of the Zionist center “KOK” in Paris SHUB, Zalman [Abelsky, Zalman], and the Chassidim SOSSONKO-BATUMSKI, FLOM and VISHEDSKY.
PORTUGAL, [Zusia] – rabbi, former deputy chairman of the Jewish religious community in Chernovtsy, from which he ran to Bucharest in 1946 where, aside from the Zionist organization “AGUDAT,” he directs Jewish childrens’ orphanages.
SHUB, Zalman, who is suspected of belonging to American intelligence, arrived in Romania illegally from France in the interests of bringing the children of the Jewish orphanages to Palestine. He hid in PORTUGAL’s apartment for two months.
Having established contact with the Zionist underground in the USSR and in an attempt to resume their escape over the border, SHUB, Zalman and PORTUGAL [Zusia] sent two couriers to Rabbi FLOM with a letter for SOSSONKO-BATUMSKI containing SCHNEERSON’s instructions that Chassidim escape over the border, and it was proposed to use the services of the letter-couriers for this purpose. This was attempted by the Chassidim in Chernovtsy, albeit unsuccessfully.
Having received a message from members of the “AGUDAT” organization BOYMAN, Naftul, who lives in the city of Radeutsy, and WAGNER, Michel, who lives in Gura-Gomurului, regarding the detention by the Romanian police of a group of Hasidim who had fled from the USSR, SHUB, Zalman, together with the senior administrator of orphanages SALTEPER, immediately left for Radeutsy, with the intention of offering a large bribe to release the detainees, but they were too late, since the detained Chassidim had already been handed over by the Romanian police to the Soviet border guards.
Likewise preparing to cross the border was the arrested Chassid-Schneersonite KOZLINER Chaim-Zalman Borukhovich who, while living in Lvov back in 1946-47, was also associated with the Chassidim and their illegal border crossings.
His wife KOZLINER, Tzipa, was arrested in 1947 as a participant in the illegal border crossings and sentenced to 10 years in Corrective Labor Camps. In 1949, however, she was released from custody under unclear circumstances, and [after that] lived with her husband in Chernovtsy. Having learned about the arrest of DUBROWSKI, she went into illegal hiding.
During the investigation, Rabbi FLOM, who was arrested in the case, confirmed his relationship with PORTUGAL, [Zusia], which, according to his statement, was carried out through his daughter SHLINGER, Chaya, who lived in Bucharest at 37 Poparadu Street.
FLOM likewise testified that in 1949, after the collapse of the illegal crossing of the Chassidim into Romania, PORTUGAL was arrested by Romanian organs but after two months under custody was released.
This information became known to him shortly before his arrest, allegedly from his daughter’s letters, [which is] of a specific nature.
The case of FLOM continues to be thoroughly investigated.
Upon the transfer of SOSSONKO-BATUMSKI from the MGB of the Uzbek SSR to the MGB of the Ukrainian SSR, the latter will be taken for enhanced interrogation.
I will report on the results.
Attached are the protocols of interrogation of Junik [and] Lepkivker on 22 sheets, copies only for the 2nd Main Directorate of the Ministry of State Security of the USSR.
DEPUTY MINISTER OF STATE SECURITY OF THE Ukrainian SSR
Major General Popereka
For the full article, including an in-depth look at the activities of the chassidim mentioned in the memo, along with extensive footnotes, click here.